Community rallies to fix woman’s dilapidated home

Human Collective comes to rescue when county’s SHIP put on hold by COVID-19

By Bruce Hope bruce@opcfla.com
Posted 3/3/21

ORANGE PARK – Drip. Drip. Drip.

Deborah Kelly-Gainers is a strong woman, but her resolve dampens every time it rains. There are buckets around the house to catch water from her leaky roof. …

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Community rallies to fix woman’s dilapidated home

Human Collective comes to rescue when county’s SHIP put on hold by COVID-19

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Drip. Drip. Drip.

Deborah Kelly-Gainers is a strong woman, but her resolve dampens every time it rains. There are buckets around the house to catch water from her leaky roof. During particularly strong storms, she’s forced to share her bed with buckets and pots.

Because of COVID-19, calls to the county’s State Housing Initiative Program hasn’t brought any relief.

So she’s forced to navigate through the decay brought on by time, neglect and Mother Nature.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The 62-year-old Orange Park resident is in a difficult position. She’s has lived in Clay County since she was 2. She’s a cancer survivor, and after returning home, she had to put her husband into a nursing home. But it’s not her body that’s in disrepair. It’s her home.

A trash can filled with water on her front porch is a disheartening way to greet visitors. There are other leaks throughout the home. The walls are covered with water stains and mold. The ceiling is collapsing.

She’s been able to get a little bit of relief with two tarps spread over the roof, but it has not helped much.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Kelly-Gainers has lived in her house for 33 years. It has been leaking for some time, and she and her husband did what they could to minimize the damage. They tried to patch holes and have the sheetrock on the ceiling done, but the fixes were only temporary. And that was only part of the home’s issues. The home’s water heater is dilapidated. There are holes in the home which literally open to the outside. The holes have allowed snakes, raccoons and opossum to come into the house in the past.

“I come in the kitchen one morning to make some coffee because I make coffee every morning,” Kelly-Gainers said. “There’s a ‘coon on the hot water heater.”

She now does her best to place items in front of the holes to keep animals out.

The bathroom is also in a state of disrepair. The ceiling is collapsing from the leaking in the roof. The floorboards are weak, and there is damage to the wall where the tub connects. That causes water to leak from the shower into the closet on the opposite side of the wall.

Her husband, currently living in Ridgeview nursing home, calls every day wanting to come home. Unfortunately, because of the condition of the house, he can’t.

Kelly-Gainers has tried to get help from the Clay County SHIP. But according to the program, “When Stay at Home orders were issued in March of 2020, the program was suspended, and all potential applicants were notified by telephone.”

Kelly-Gainers was notified, but she said she was advised something would be done in September. When September arrived and nothing changed, she called back and was told that due to the pandemic, everything was still on hold.

“I gave them all the information they needed and filled out the paperwork. The COVID hit, and they told me, ‘We’re trying to keep people in their houses,’” she said. That effort to keep people in their houses pushed her to the back of the line for help. “I said, I’ll try to hold off as long as I can.”

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Kelly-Gainers did that, getting the tarps placed on her roof to try and ease the leaks. In the meantime, nobody from SHIP came out to assess the property or offer a solution. When she called back for help this year, she was told that she would have to fill out all of the paperwork again because it was a new year. She was beyond frustrated and looked for assistance with every possible resource.

“All applicants were notified that they had to complete and resubmit all required paperwork to reinitiate the application process,” a SHIP representative told Clay Today. “Any applicant interested in home repair assistance should resubmit their paperwork proving they meet the income eligibility requirements and agreeing to abide by all requirement of the program contract, and their application will be reconsidered for assistance.”  

Enter the Human Collective Foundation. Based in Clay County, the foundation works to help those in need. Once they discovered Kelly-Gainers’ situation, they jumped into action, and the response from the Clay community was resounding.

The foundation posted photos of Kelly-Gainers’ home on their Facebook page, and community members immediately reached out with offers to help.

Noelle Marx of the Human Collective worked with her contacts to begin the process of helping. PuroClean Emergency Restoration Services was enlisted to perform a mold assessment. The report showed water damage, wetted materials, elevated airborne fungal levels and visible mold growth.

The Human Collective also is working with contractors to get some help on fixing the damaged home. That will not only provide a better living space for Kelly-Gainers but hopefully a home her husband can safely return.

“When we heard of Mrs. Kelly [Gainers’] living conditions, we felt the immediate need to help her in some fashion,” Marx said. “The community is willing to rally around her and do what is needed to make her home suitable for living so she can bring her husband home finally. We are, usual, so proud of the way Clay County comes together, always willing to lend a hand where needed.”

“I really appreciate everything Noelle [Marx] is doing,” said Kelly-Gainers. “I enjoyed meeting her and I am glad that she got other people involved. It really touched my heart.”

And finally stopping the drip, drip, drip.

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